How Colors Affect Your Marketing

By Jennifer Connor, April 13, 2017

Picking out the right colors to market your brand can be daunting. Researchers have found up to 90% of snap judgments made about products are based on color. Consumers are highly visual, and colors can influence how they view a brand’s personality and even credibility.

For instance, Harley Davidson’s target audience likes a rugged color palette. But imagine if Harley’s motorcycles were pastel pink? Probably wouldn’t fly.

When the choice of color can determine whether or not a consumer buys your product, you want to make sure you’re using it the right way. Here’s what you need to know.  

Primary and Secondary Colors Invoke Emotions

Primary colors are one of the first things we’re taught when we start school. Basic colors blue, red, and yellow help create other colors. Without these three colors, there would be no Crayola 64.  



Source: Social Media Today

Not only are primary colors the building blocks for other colors like secondary ones (e.g. purple, green, orange), but they invoke an emotional response in consumers.

By using a specific color in their branding, marketers are able to make consumers react and feel a particular way. Here’s how the following colors affect consumers.

Red. Coca-Cola and Target are two brands that use red in their branding. Red is a stimulating color associated with passion, excitement, and urgency. Don’t you feel the urge to shop when you see an ad or commercial for Target? Pretty sure we all do.

Also you’ll see red used to promote clearance sales, too.

Related Post: Use Color Psychology to Make Everyone Love You

Green. Green is commonly associated with nature. Health and environmentally conscious brands gravitate toward this earthy color (think Whole Foods, the ‘healthy fast-food.’) It also represents wealth, too. Big brands in finance like Citizens Bank, TD Bank, and Fidelity all use green.

Blue. Security, reliability, and peace are common themes with blue. Brands that want to promote those themes (e.g. GE, Facebook, Intel), will use varying shades of blue.

Purple. Brands like FedEx, Cadbury, and Yahoo (in its heyday) who want to be seen as premium use purple. After all, purple has always been associated with royalty.  

Orange. Caution and energy may seem like polar opposites, but it works because the point of orange is to stand out and get your attention (e.g. Nickelodeon).

Yellow. Smiley faces and the sun, they’re both yellow. Yellow is synonymous with optimism, and happy brands like to use yellow. Who isn’t happy when they walk into an IKEA store?

Tint, Shade, and Tone Help Personalize Your Brand

If all brands were the same shade, not only would it be boring, but it would be hard to stand out from the crowd. Many brands personalize their colors by adjusting their tint, shade, or tone.

Related Post: Understanding Millennials: How to Make Them Love Your Brand

Tint. Also known as a pastel, tint is created when white is added to the color to lighten it. The more white you add, the more the intensity of the color decreases.


Source: Visme

Shade. When black is added to a color, it becomes a shade. A shade is a deeper and darker color.


Source: Visme

Tone. To “tone down,” a pure color is mixed with a grey color (e.g. combo of white and black).  


Source: Visme

Contrasting Colors Help Your Wording Stand Out (Or Retreat)

Contrast is how one color stands apart from another. Contrasting colors help separate the text from the background. There are two types of contrast:

  • High Contrast. Stands out.
  • Low Contrast. Doesn’t stand out; text is muted.

Source: Social Media Today

Keep in mind though, just because you’re using different colors, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll contrast. When colors have the same tone, they won’t look different when layered.

If you aren’t sure if a color will contrast, try testing it with a grey scale.  



Source: CoSchedule

The Right Color Combos Make Your Brand Easily Identifiable

When you see red and gold, what brand immediately comes to mind? Probably McDonald’s, right? Color combinations are a way to make your brand easily identifiable.

Related Post: How to Boost Your Brand’s Growth With Hashtag Marketing



Source: McDonald’s

When choosing colors, keep the combination simple: two or three colors max. And make sure your colors are complementary. Complementary colors are opposite of each other on the wheel (e.g. blue and orange, red and green, yellow and purple).


Colors can have a profound affect on your marketing strategy. Use the right one, and you’ll connect on an emotional level with your consumers. Choose the wrong one, and you’ll push them away.

Who knew a simple box of crayons could hold such power?

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Jennifer Connor

Jennifer Connor

Jennifer is a graduate of Washington College where she earned a bachelor of arts in Psychology, with a concentration in Business Management. For her undergraduate thesis, she focused on the psychology of social media marketing. Outside of work, she can be found cheering for her favorite hockey team the Washington Capitals, or spending time with her two horses, two kittens, and puppy. More Articles by Jennifer Connor